Top 10: Richie Spice, Jackson Conti, Munk
Release Date: Out Now
In the Streets to Africa was an album well worth the praise it received, and Gideon Boot doesn't disappoint as a follow-up. Though slightly mellower, Spice's latest effort is an engaging affair that finds the reggae artist once again singing conscious numbers about empowerment, spirituality, and the need to improve lives currently overrun by poverty. The album takes its title from the Book of Judges in the Old Testament, and while I wouldn't go as far as to say Spice is "the Gideon of contemporary reggae," his self-appointed "prince of fire" title is well-deserved here.
Fela's Egypt 80
Release Date: Summer 2008
Seun Kuti–son of the late Nigerian composer Fela Kuti–follows in his legendary father's footsteps on this album, supplying several horn-driven tracks concerned with social issues and the fate of contemporary Africa. Whether it's discussing the number of deaths on that continent caused by AIDS or the current oil crisis, Kuti states his points as emphatically as possible without sounding preachy (although he's probably got a right to sound preachy, if he wanted to), while his Egypt 80 orchestra accompanies with a wildly eclectic selection of horns, percussion, and riffing guitars. This one's as entertaining as it is enlightening.
Release Date: June 2008
Gomma co-founder Mathias Modica turns up with a new album that's, as expected, heavy on the synthesizers. Cloudbuster darts back and forth between groovy dancefloor numbers and weird interludes that feature guitar static and warped vocals, but the album never gets so concerned with itself it becomes some abstract composition folks will sit around and de-construct while smoking Gaulouises. This is pure fun, from the dancefloor-friendly opener to the spooky, whispering chorus in "Il Gatto" and the straight up bizareness that is "No Milk."
Release Date: August 2008
MC Azeem returns, with a third full-length that's equal parts grit and fun. Over the course of 14 tracks, the Oakland-based MC covers drops references to the Oklahoma City bombings, the Bush Administration, and his issues with the hyphy movement, but still manages to have fun by throwing in some humor and several shout outs to the Bay Area. Meat Beat Manifesto, DNAE Beats, and Bassnectar make appearances for production duties, and the horn-drenched "Latin Revenge" is a refreshing spin on contemporary hip-hop.
Secretsundaze Presents Tobi Neumann
Release Date: July 2008
If anyone is up to the challenge of breathing life back into house and techno (and at this point, that's a hell of a order), it's the famed London crew in secretsundaze, whose parties have seen everyone from Ricardo Villalobos to Luciano roll through. For their second mix sampler, the founders enlisted Berlin-based DJ Tobi Neumann to compile a mix of house and techno cuts. While the entire disc follows a traditional route that begins with mellow house music and ends with heavy, brooding techno, track selection seems to have been meticulously done here, and a smooth mix of seamless transitions and consistent energy makes up the end product.
Black Devil Disco Club
Eight Oh Eight
Release Date: Summer 2008
Black Devil Disco Club is better known as a mysterious duo from France upon which little is written. Eight Oh Eight marks the final chapter in a musical trilogy that was started 30 years ago and has steadily gained a following in the underground, and for this release, the groups trademark spooky sounds and bizarre musical compositions are in full force. This is a land of cosmic disco where synths rule, vocals are impossible to understand, and eerie hooks twist over one another at a dizzying pace.
Release Date: September 16
This recent Baltimore transplant takes his musical inspiration from the earliest incursions of the Sega Genesis, but this isn't your average 8-bit album. Why? Because 24-year old Benny Boeldt is as adept with making melody as he is at fiddling with videogame components, and the resulting sound is one of futuristic bleeps and beeps mixed with minor chords and lush string arrangements, and Boeldt strikes a surprisingly solid balance between the two.
Avant-garde composer Alexander Tucker likes to blur boundaries. A recent press release for this album pointed to the fact that "finger-picked guitar lines [are] indistinguishable from the more traditional string arrangements and voice," and that "these melodic clusters interweave like the paths carved by a figure skater." Poetic analogies aside, Portal is indeed an album where musical lines are blurred to the point of obscurity and differentiation between the country-style guitars and abstract pianos seems unimportant to the album as a whole.
Delicious Vinyl All-Stars: Rmxxology
Release Date: June 3 (digital), July 29 (CD/LP)
Indie dance takes on mainstream rap for this compilation, started as a collaboration between Peaches and Delicious Vinyl founder Rick Ross. Here, The Pharcyde, Masta Ace, Fatlip, and other hip-hop giants are remixed and re-imagined by the likes of Hot Chip, Mr. Flash, Diplo, and, uh, Eminiem (who seems somewhat out of place on this comp). Okay, maybe this isn't the most sophisticated of releases, but it's damn fun and it'll get your house party jumping when Aaron LaCrate and Debonair Samir's crunked-out Bmore remix of "Know How Theme" by Young MC hits the speakers.
Release Date: June 3
Madlib's back, this time with Brazilian music legend Ivan "Mamao" Conti. As Jackson Conti–a project that arose out of the documentary film Brasilintime–these two pay homage to Brazilian musical traditions with a grip of tracks that range from five minutes to 28 seconds. As to be expected, production on these tracks, a selection of new material and covers of famous Brazilian songs, is top notch and flavored with plenty of samba and bossa nova. Oh, and the release came packaged with a plastic nose flute, on which XLR8R design guru Mark did a rather convincing rendition of "Jingle Bells."
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